Now comes the real test. Of Syria's sincerity. Of Russia's resolve. Of America's gamble.
Over the weekend, the U.S. and Russia hashed out a new plan to get Syria to give up control of its chemical weapons. Syria says it welcomes the plan.
But will the war-torn country actually hand over one of the world's biggest stockpiles of chemical weapons? Or is this just a delaying tactic to get the world off its back? And if President Bashar al-Assad doesn't comply, what next?
We'll find out in the coming days. Syria has until next week to provide a full list of all its chemical weapons and where it's storing them. Today, we hear from a U.N. report on whether poison gas was used in an attack on Damascus suburbs on August 21. But here's the hitch: The report won't say who used it -- the regime or the rebels.
As you begin your first day back at work after the weekend, here's a Q&A that'll bring you up to speed on what happens next.
What does the deal say?
The four-page "Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons" basically says:
• Within one week, Syria must submit a full list of its chemical weapons stockpile.
• By November, international inspectors must be on the ground in the country.
• Before the end of November, the inspectors should complete their initial survey of the weapons sites.
• Also before the end of November, all production and mixing or filling equipment must be destroyed.
• By the middle of next year, all chemical weapons material must be destroyed.
That's quite ambitious. Will it have any teeth once the U.N. weighs in?
It's true that plans often get watered down at the United Nations. This one goes to Security Council members as early as today. There, members will craft a resolution that'll keep the process under review and allow the U.N. to consider the use of force if Syria fails to comply. "If the Assad regime believes that this is not enforceable, then they will play games," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday. French President Francois Hollande has said that the council might vote on it by the end of the week.
'Use of force'? Hasn't Russia consistently said that's a no-go?
Yes, and it's still standing firm on that. So what happens if Syria doesn't comply? More on that below.
Isn't there big news coming today?
A long-awaited report by U.N. weapons inspectors will be released today, but it'll probably only confirm what many already suspect -- that chemical weapons were used near Damascus on August 21. The United States says more than 1,400 people, including children, were gassed to death in that attack. And that incident set off the flurry of events that has brought us to this point today. But what the U.N. report won't say is this: Who was behind the attack -- the regime or the rebels?
So, when is the first real test of Syria's sincerity?
Next week. The regime has until then to provide its full list: How big its stockpile is, what kinds of are weapons are in it, and where are they stored.
How big is the stash?
U.S. intelligence believes Syria has about 1,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, most of it sarin and VX stored as unmixed components, Kerry said last week. Sarin and VX are nerve gases that can cause convulsions, paralysis, respiratory failure and death. And they may be stored in about 50 different sites, the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Israel says.
How many inspectors will it take to get rid of it all?
No one's really sure. The Russian-U.S. plan doesn't specify a number. It says the inspectors will come from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and the U.N. may have a role. However, David Kay, a former U.N. and U.S. weapons inspector, thinks it'll take 500 to 1,000 people just to secure the sites.
What are the major challenges?